Photo: Alberta’s Badlands.
Leaving Golden, BC and entering Alberta, we took the undeniably awesome drive up the Jasper Park Causeway to Saskatchewan River Crossing. Stopping at Takakkaw Falls Provincial Park for lunch, we were forced to remain on high alert as stealthy, partially tame ravens and squirrels attempted to steal our food. The over-indulged critters kept us fully engaged and entertained, constantly trying to outmaneuver them.
Photo: Janice at our lunch spot at Takkakaw Falls Provincial Park.
Photo: Tim at Waterfowl Lake on the Jasper Park Causeway.
Photo: We entered Alberta from BC and drove east, exiting in Montana.
Neither of us had ever taken the drive east from Saskatchewan Crossing and it turned out to be one of the most remarkable drives of our lives. Maybe it was the new-to-us views of some of the Rocky Mountains but we were powerfully impressed by their massive scale as they framed the Kootenay Plain. The undulating, expansive grass-covered ground of the Kootenay Plain terminates in stunning views of towering Rocky Mountain spires in all directions; a place where buffalo once roamed and a great deal of wildlife still freely plays.
We pulled into the Alberta Government operated Two O’clock Creek Campground about, when else, two o’clock. The campground covers hundreds and hundreds of acres on the high, western side of the Kootenay Plain. The facilities are rustic but exactly what you’d expect to encounter in a wilderness setting. After setting up camp we took a long walk across the plain and then along the wooded path that followed the base of the rocky outcroppings west of our camp.
Because of the elevation of the Plain, it chilled rather quickly in the evening, but a ripping fire made it comfortable for sitting out. Here we were, just our second night out, at what has to be one of the nicest RV stops on the planet. I remarked to Janice as we sat at the fire that night that our first few days on the road would probably include some of the most spectacular scenery we were likely to encounter.
Photo: Campsite at Two O’Clock Creek.
Photo: Two O’Clock Creek.
Photos: The road in front of the campsite at Two O’clock Creek.
On the road the next day we meandered around more enormous aqua-coloured glacial lakes and massive, towering mountains, eventually ending up at Rocky Mountain House, and Cow Lake Campground. In stark contrast to the Rocky Mountains, the Cow Lake area somehow managed to impress us with its very flatness, like a mirror set in the gently waving grass. There we spent a calm, pleasant evening around the campfire.
Photo: The pier at Cow Lake, Rocky Mountain House.
Photo: Cow Lake at Rocky Mountain House.
In the morning it was raining so we decided to do a little laundry while we breakfasted at the local A&W. Later we walked the historic and colourful part of Rocky Mountain House; stopping at a drugstore to see if they could re-set my watch to Alberta time.
I had purchased a waterproof Timex Indiglo for the trip before we left home because I didn’t want to be travelling with my good gold watch. Earlier, to my delight, and then disappointment, Janice, who can usually figure out almost any technical quandary, couldn’t get it to change time either. In the drugstore I noticed that the store owner was wearing an Indiglo watch himself. What luck. When I asked him how to change it though he pointed out that he was still on standard time, for the same reason – he couldn’t figure out how to change his either. I ended up buying a $12, non-digital, white-faced watch with very large numerals instead.
Some long-time friends of ours, Barry and Joan Hachey had moved to Red Deer Alberta about ten years ago and, never having been to see them, we decided it was high time. Barry and I used to play together in the rock band Hold the Onions in the early 90′s.
Having been an RVer himself for a number of years, Barry talked me into purchasing some vent covers for the trailer, which he installed for me. Basically the vent covers stop the roof vents from blowing off the trailer at high speeds. It was a good thing too because later we saw a lot of other people’s roof vents in highway ditches.
We enjoyed a couple of good days with Barry and Joan, engaging in some splendid home cooking and not very much red wine; right guys?
Today is June 5, we said our goodbyes to our friends and drove to Drumheller, Alberta, world famous for its dinosaur digs. We spent an hour in the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, exploring some dinosaur history and the enormous life-size skeletons recreated there. We also roamed the hot, barren hills where the dinosaur remains were discovered and where Janice almost got bitten in the ass by a baby dinosaur. She doesn’t run as fast she used to, or as fast as I do.
Photo: Janice, inside the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.
Janice, a Red Seal chef, will research food vendor opportunities along the way, while I’ll keep a blog of our travels, including a detailed budget, followed by an actual expense report, in order to develop a website that provides prospective travelers with all the information they need to embark on a similar expedition.
There was a twenty-four-hour jam session advertised at our campground so, seeing a possible opportunity for me to jam, and for both of us to mingle with some locals, we decided to take the short drive there. It turned out that there was no drum kit at the jam, but there was a really good three hundred pound keyboard player/singer/host that did a great job accompanying some very good country musicians. He also generously accompanied a piss poor, drunken, Elvis. We hung out with them for an hour or two, enjoying the show, which was made even more memorable by Elvis’ slovenly, off-key antics. The musicians invited us to a jam later that night at the nearby town of East Coulee but we decided to hit the road early the next day instead – destination, Brooks, Alberta, where we’re hoping for another dinosaur encounter.
We set up camp the next day at Tillebrook Provincial Park, just outside Brooks. Driving around Brooks after dinner, we noticed that it was a uniquely multi-cultural kind of place, especially for a town of its size, way out in the middle of the prairie. The presence of so many black people baffled us – a cultural anomaly if you will. It was explained to us later that the cause of the unusual balance of ethnicity was the result of the fact that there is a huge abattoir in Brooks that employs thousands of people from all over the world, mostly from Senegal.
We’re headed for Medicine Hat tomorrow, where we’re supposed to meet Janice’s camera case. The cable required to download photos is in the camera case and she left it at Barry and Joan’s place in Red Deer.
Medicine Hat is an attractive mid-size town, nestled in a broad valley created by the Bow River. It’s definitely worth taking the time to have a look around. It’s also the point that we turn south for Montana, where we’ll then be taking a left turn, destination South Dakota…Mount Rushmore, The Badlands and all that…
We picked up Janice’s camera case at the Greyhound Station in Medicine Hat and then headed for Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta’s Badlands. There we roamed around the ancient sea bed for an hour in the searing heat, indulging ourselves in the surreal landscape, trying to imagine the gargantuan reptiles that once prowled there.
Photo: Janice views the heart of Alberta’s Badlands at Dinosaur Provincial Park. We went for a long, hot walk down there – phantasmagorical comes to mind.
Photo: Janice is forced to take to high ground at Dinosaur Provincial Park as a niggling little juvenile Albertasaurus (just out of picture), continues to stalk her.
Later we drove to Elkwater Provincial Park in the Cypress Hills where, due to the elevation, it became considerably cooler. The Cypress Hills are located in the south-eastern-most corner of Alberta, where it borders both Saskatchewan and Montana.
After setting up camp we took a long, sunny ride on the lovely boardwalks that traverse the shallow reedy areas around the lake. That night, due to the elevation of the park, the cold settled in quickly as we drank wine around the campfire.
Photo: Tim rides his fold-up bicycle on the boardwalk at Elkwater Lake in the Cypress Hills. You can almost hear the circus music playing in the background.
When we woke on the morning of June 8 it was colder yet, and windy, with heavy rain mixed with snow! We decided, as John Hiatt would sing, to ‘Drive South’ into Montana…